Photo - Col de Galibier



The New Year has arrived!

No doubt you are at least thinking about getting on the bike!


You may be stretching those creaking limbs, immobilised by the festive Christmas festivities, looking sadly at the bathroom scales, or you may be skimming along on your bike at 20mph. Either way, January is probably a good time to start thinking about increasing your fitness ready for serious training for the Etape!


There is nothing quite like getting out on the bike!


Short Routes

It is worth planning your training routes. It is useful to have a few local routes sorted out. Your life may be a busy one with friends, family and work to consider, so it pays to have local routes of say 5 miles and 10 miles, so that if you have the a spare half an hour or so it is possible to get a quick ride in.

At this time of year it is probably sufficient to simply enjoy riding the routes when there is no ice or snow on the road, but as spring arrives it is encouraging to record your average speed to see your improvements. As the season progresses and your fitness improves, you will be able to push yourself harder


In particular, it is worth taking advantage of any local hills.


Longer Routes

When time is available, longer routes will start to prepare you for Etape distances. When the weather allows, a ride of 30 miles or more is a pleasure, particularly in scenic countryside. It is worth planning some scenic hilly routes


Act 1 – The Alpine Route

The Modane to Alpe d’Huez route is unusual – it is one of the shortest Etape routes ever, but has an exceptional amount of climbing. If you are doing this route, the emphasis of your training, particularly as the months go by, will be on climbing.


Power Training

If you are training on an exercise bike in the gym, or are using a turbo trainer which measures watts, you may find it useful to have a power level to aim at during your training.


If you produce 200W of power, it will take you something over an hour to climb 1000 metres, depending on your weight. As Telegraph, Galibier and Alpe d’Huez are all around 1000 metres, this may be a useful figure to aim at.


Initially you may prefer to train at, say 150 watts.


Training on the flat

How do you train for the mountains on the flat? Riding at around 19 mph requires 150W of power to the road, rising to 200W at 21 mph. These are good speeds to aim at in order to produce the same power output required to climb each of this year’s Act 1 Etape climbs in a fast time. These are good figures to work towards, though an average 15 or 16 mph is a good start.

If you are judging your performance, remember that even the smallest gradient will slow you down considerably! It would take twice as much power to sustain 19 mph up a 2% gradient as on the flat!


Sustaining a similar power level for long periods is another story! This is where endurance training is needed.


Endurance Training

In endurance training, the emphasis is on distance and time rather than intensity. There is a long tradition of training at modest levels for long periods during the winter months. You will probably find that if you ride below a certain intensity, you will be able to continue for as long as you like without becoming exhausted. Studies have shown that typically your heart rate will be between 65% and 80% of its maximum value for such sessions.

As the Etape approaches, after a few months of training, you will find that you are able to sustain higher speeds over long distances.


Act 2 – Issoire to St Flour

In contrast to Act 1, Act 2 is one of the longest Etape du Tour routes, at 130 miles (208 km). It is not without its hills though! In particular, Puy Mary is a real challenge, and the succession of minor hills requires plenty of stamina.


In the UK we are well provided for in terms of good training terrain – the Auvergne region is not dissimilar in terms of gradients to the British landscape. In the UK there are plenty of hilly regions to train in, and as the spring arrives trips to this type of area will pay off.


In January, the advice is similar to that for Act 1, but putting more emphasis on the endurance rather than climbing.



Winter Hazards

Although we are all keen to get fit quickly, it is worth taking care. Every year Etappers fall of their bikes training when there is ice and snow on the road. Although fit people have been shown to suffer less from colds, getting severely chilled may provoke the flu, or make an existing minor flu episode much worse. Even intelligent etappers have been known to collide with road works in the dark!

Please take care - there are still around 6 months left for training remember!




Now is a good time to plan trips to mountainous areas to get some real mountain training in! Our trip to Snowdonia in May is an excellent opportunity to train with other Etappers on real mountains without leaving the UK!

If you want to train for Act 2, you could do a lot worse than to visit Pascal for a week or a few days, or to join his training week in the area where Act 2c will take place. Contact me for more details.


It is also a good time to plan to join suitable Audaxes and Sportives.


You may also want to visit good cycling areas such as the Chilterns, Cotswolds, Wales, Scotland ….


Enjoy your training!